Hopelessness is precursor to suicide. That moment in time when nothing good seems possible. You wake up again in pain and darkness knowing the same thing will happen tomorrow. When I first heard that gratitude was the antidote to hopelessness it was said in such away that I felt hurt. A glib off the cuff, “If you count your blessings, all will be well.” I think my first reaction was to throw the person in the mud and tell them if they count their blessings all will be well. Fortunately, long before I understood the deep hole I was in, I memorized a song singing it to my children called “Count your many Blessings.” That song has a catchy tune and would come to me in the oddest moments. The moments when despair would start to swamp my soul. I did my own personal research. I started a gratitude quest. One year I shared day by day a new thing to be thankful for everyday in the month of November. I learned a few things. Gratitude has a domino affect. When I am thankful for breathing, then I become aware of sweet smells of chocolate. Have you ever smelled a chocolate bar and savored it before taking even one bite. Gratitude for breathing can change a person’s attitude. I worked at a Junior high school, students range in age about 11 to 14 years old. A substitute teacher walked into the teachers lounge looking totally stressed out. I asked gently how he was doing. He quipped back, “I’m still breathing.” I smiled and answered, “Breathing is good.” He stopped, looked at me and declared, “Breathing is good.” He cheered up. The class didn’t change. They were still going to give him a rough time. But the substitute teacher’s focused had changed. I remember doing that myself. At the end of a crazy day with toddlers and disasters, I looked in on each one of my sleeping children and they were all breathing. I was thankful we survived the day. Now, those precious children that challenged me to the max have precious children of their own challenging them. Breathing is good. I intensified my research into gratitude.
Did you know that if you are given a gift and do not feel gratitude, it is the same as not receiving the gift? I first heard the story from Dr. Banks about two twin boys that were the opposite to each other. This is the version I found on line.
A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom & gloom pessimist.
Just to see what would happen, on the twins’ birthday their father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist’s room he loaded with horse manure.
That night the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.
“Why are you crying?” the father asked.
“Because my friends will be jealous, I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I’ll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken,” answered the pessimist twin.
Passing the optimist twin’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. “What are you so happy about?” he asked.
To which his optimist twin replied, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
PTSD provides plenty of manure. Crap happens. Horrors rip at my mind. But gratitude, changes my focus. I go looking for that pony. How silly some would say? Looking for something good when so much horror fills the world? But the world is not filled by horror alone. Misery, helplessness, horror do not want to share the stage with a spectacular sunrise, a blooming flower, a chocolate bar, or breathing. There were times that I felt so crushed by hopelessness that breathing was labored and difficult. Misery clouding all my senses. Then I became aware of the softness of the blanket under my check soaking up my tears. I stretch my body and felt a bit of strength returning to my numb limbs. I start to think of those things that I am grateful for. Gifts of breathing, sunrise, flowers, butterflies, did you know that there are over 17,000 varieties of butterflies? My photography work focuses again and again on the beauty that lurks around us everyday. One thing leads to another. Gratitude does not prevent bad things and horrific memories from happening, it changes my focus. Years of photography taught me the difference in any picture is where do you focus? Gratitude shifts the players on my minds stage.
My pictures http://ruthmower.blogspot.com/
These were taken one morning.
Another person’s poem titled Antidote to Hopelessness.
It is copy righted so I am sharing the link: